Lawmakers taking second look at 'second chance law'

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Legislators want to take a second look at a new law passed this year that gives Indiana residents with nonviolent criminal histories a chance to limit public access to parts of their record.

The Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee met Thursday and discussed possible changes to the new law that the Indiana General Assembly passed in the final days of the 2011 session.

Known as the “second chance” law, House Enrolled Act 1211 allows individuals convicted of certain offenses that weren’t violent or sex crimes to request from the courts restricted access to arrest and criminal records after eight years. The new law is limited to misdemeanors and Class D felonies, and it only limits access rather than expunging a person’s record completely. The statute also allows for limited record access if the person wasn’t prosecuted, if the charges were dismissed or if the case resulted in acquittal.

But since the law took effect July 1, the legal community has been confused about how the changes should be implemented. Judges have delayed making decisions on those requests for closed access to arrest records until they received more direction, and prosecutors and defense attorneys have directed questions to lawmakers.

The Indiana Supreme Court’s Division of State Court Administration has received questions from trial judges and clerks about the logistics of restricting access to public records, according to court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan. She said the court has added a new chapter to the Administrative Manual about navigating this new statute, and the courts also developed and posted online a form that could be used by pro se litigants.

“Our goal is to give judges and clerks meaningful direction on how to make daily court operations run smoothly while following the law,” Dolan said.

At its most recent meeting on Thursday, the interim legislative panel discussed fixing the inconsistencies in the statute. Draft legislation is being finalized and likely will be discussed again at the next meeting Oct. 26, according to committee members.

Some discussion points at the meeting: Sen. Richard Bray, R-Martinsville, noted that felons could be admitted as lawyers in the state because they would not have to disclose their prior crimes that are sealed through this law. David Powell, recently appointed as the executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, said schools should be allowed to access these records when running criminal background checks on prospective employees.

Indiana Public Defender Council Executive Director Larry Landis said he supports the current law because its aim of shielding these records was a compromise in the larger debate about expunging the convictions altogether. But he agrees the law is inconsistent, and that’s what the draft legislation focuses on. Those revisions are intended to clarify what goes into a petition requesting this limited access and who should get notice of this petition and order once it’s filed, as well as what a court should order about who needs to comply with the restricted access. One aspect also involves making the petition itself confidential, Landis said.

“We wouldn’t be reopening discussion about any substantive policy issues, but just clarifying and making the law more specific on how it should be implemented,” he said.


  • Second chance act
    This was a loosely defined law that was passed by legislators for wanting to look compassionate to a very vocal group. No more no less. Its amazing the people of this state pay to have its leaders not take this "dangerous" legislation to a completed thought. But what makes it more disturbing? Is they did this lackedaisical process with so much of the states residents safety and security at risk.
  • Second chance Felony law
    Is there forms online to fill out to if anybody's eligible for ?

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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.